Tag Archives: National infertility awareness week

Listen Up

//this post is dedicated to my aunt and my way of thanking you for my life lesson//

April marks National Infertility Awareness Week //April 23-29, 2017// and as part of it’s movement to rid the stigma that one in eight of us faces, Resolve spearheads a theme every year. If you remember, On Prayers and Needles was nominated in 2016 for the Hope Blog of the Year based on last year’s submission to “Start Asking” //linked here http://onprayersandneedles.org/2016/04/startasking/ //. This year’s theme “Listen Up” is an effort to get our voices heard, to impact legislation to provide sufficient and universal insurance coverage, and to breakdown the barriers of infertility.

When I first glanced at this year’s theme, “Listen Up”, I could’t help but retreat back to when I was in middle school.  At the time, my aunt had introduced my parents to essentially some life-coach organization that offered seminars for adolescents.  I never really understood the point or gave the experience much thought; however something did resonate with me that I even reference now as a thirty-something-year-old in my own life experiences. I remember a long, drawn-out discussion of how we all have rackets in our life, be whatever they may, significant or insignificant, and that we tend to have expectations of how others should behave within these certain instances. The point that I’ve carried with me all this time is that while we may assume that somebody should respond in a certain manner, that is completely out of our jurisdiction. We can only control our own actions and reactions; not the actions of others.

It got me thinking of this year’s theme. In a perfect world, I’d expect that everyone would “Listen Up” when it comes to infertility. If everyone were to “Listen Up” they would understand the loss and devastation an infertile couple faces in being unable to have a baby the most natural way. They’d think before they said something like “Why don’t you just adopt?” and be more conscientious of their actions. If people were to “Listen Up”, they’d empathize with the pain pregnancy announcements, baby showers, and ‘Reserved for Expectant Mothers’ signs can inflict. They’d acknowledge that miscarriages, failed cycles, infertility diagnoses, chemical pregnancies, and stillbirths all require grieving time. If the world would “Listen Up” they’d recognize that surrogacy should be legal and insurance coverage for infertility should be available for all couples regardless of their sexual orientation or where they reside. They’d respond in a way that would cause a monumental shift in how infertility is perceived and the shame and isolation associated with this disease would be dissolved.

In essence, my expectation would be that as a whole, the realm outside of infertility would understand, think, empathize, acknowledge, recognize as if they were 1-in-8 and they’d respond. Yet, that life lesson I was given almost two decades ago has taught me that I cannot control the actions of others; only my own actions and reactions. So while I cannot force them to “Listen Up”, I can “Speak Up”. I must use social media platforms to “Speak Up” and get my success story out there so people can realize the struggle infertile couples face and the need for change. When at work or out for happy-hour, I must “speak Up” by sharing our journey openly so that infertility becomes a socially acceptable topic of conversation. I must participate in walks, advocacy nights, and other events to spread awareness and “Speak Up” within my own community.

Not only must my actions “Speak Up”, but so too should my reactions. When receiving push-back about undergoing In Vitro Fertilization , I must “Speak Up” and let it be known that no matter what my nationality or religious belief, my God wanted me to be a mom and everyone is deserving of that opportunity if they so chose. When someone asks when I’m going to have another, I must “Speak Up” and say “we struggle with infertility” and “our first is an IVF baby”. When an acquaintance advises that I should be content with the one child I’ve been given, I must agree that I am blessed and then “Speak Up” to remind them that they wouldn’t say that to a fertile couple wanting to grow their family.

I’ve come to learn, infertility happens to be a racket in my life. I cannot change the circumstance, only the way I react to it. I cannot expect you to react in the same way; nor can I force you to “Speak Up.” I can only hope that in choosing to “Speak Up” the world will “Listen Up”.

#startasking

imageI am thrilled to be part of Miss.Conceptioncoach’s Bloggers Unite Conference this year in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week and humbled to have been included with such an esteemed group of women. This year’s theme is #startasking and I cannot think of a better theme for me, personally, since this was basically the springboard for my blog, On Prayers & Needles.

During my journey, I couldn’t help but #startasking how, when 1 in every 8 couples struggles with infertility, are there not more local support groups available? I would go to my OBGYN, our fertility doctor, my husband’s urologist, the chiropractor & acupuncturists’ offices and there would be corkboards overflowing with every type of group you could name. Yet, the only one I needed in that moment wasn’t there.

Instead, I would spend countless hours glued to my cell phone or laptop on BabyCentre, What To Expect Before Your Expecting, etc., etc. group boards waiting for any type of a response to the questions I had. Did anyone have success with Tese for Azoospermia? How many months did you take Clomid before becoming pregnant? Did you take birth control pills as part of your IVF protocol? Are these follicle numbers and measurements decent? I’d wait, to hear from someone I knew only by screen name and not face, someone who lived in another country, to answer. I’d wait there praying that I’d get some glimpse of hope that they had been where I was and everything worked out. And while I appreciated any and all of the support I could get across the Internet and anywhere else, I yearned for a “safe place” ~a place where I could sit with women who were or had been in my shoes and we could discuss all of these things face-to-face over coffee at a local Starbucks. It was then that I promised myself, if I were ever to receive my miracle, I would basically Pay-It-Forward by starting a local support group. That is when this blog was basically conceived (no pun intended).

Fast-forward to just about two-months ago when I finally revved up the courage to launch On Prayers and Needles and share my story…

Slowly, I began to hear the stories of others whom I may or may not have known had difficulty getting pregnant and it felt very liberating for all of us to exchange our experiences. Then I even started to receive intermittent questions from readers asking for more information about meds, doctors, recommendations for a successful IFV cycle. However, none of these women (rightfully so) were interested in participating in a local support group, which led me to #startasking a bigger question: How, when 1 in every 8 couples is infertile, is there still such a stigma and sense of shame in not being able to conceive naturally?

For anyone who has been following (thank you) and those of you just tuning in (thank you, also), I’m sure it is pretty evident that I am an open-book. During our journey there was never a time when I didn’t feel comfortable saying that we were struggling with infertility. You might think that is because it was more of my husband’s “problem”, but I also had my own “issues”. It’s just I came at it from a different perspective, which was basically if it’s broke, fix it. If your hip gives out, you replace it. If you have an infection, you take an antibiotic. If you can’t produce sperm, you find a way to. Clearly, there is no shame in our game and of course, I’m making light of all of these situations. They’re not all that easily resolved. But my mentality was and is, just like anything else in life, if it isn’t working, you fix it (failing marriage, dead-end job). And regardless of what anyone’s picture-perfect life appears to be on Instagram, believe me, there’s something they need or have had to “fix”.

While I completely respect anyone’s choice to keep their infertility private, I also find it important to #startasking why? Are you any less deserving of a baby than someone who could conceive without interventions? In a day in age when science is revolutionary, why wouldn’t you use the advancements provided to start or complete your family? Even when religion is a factor, doesn’t your God want you to be a mom? Don’t you think that someday, if you choose, to explain to your child “how they were made” that they’ll realize how much you loved and wanted him or her even before they were born? If someone in your life was struggling with something, wouldn’t you want them to open up so you could be there for them?

One of the most touching responses I’ve received since initiating the blog, was an e-mail from someone who hadn’t shared her story with anyone outside of her immediate circle. She felt inspired, after reading and relating to mine, to share her own with me. I read it, tears streaming down my face, hoping that she could see the beauty in her story that I did. While that wasn’t the initial intent of the blog, in that moment, I realized that it had served its purpose in a different way.

The more we open up and #startasking ourselves and others these tough questions, the more people will become aware of infertility and all it entails. Once more and more people #startasking, the dialogue can begin so that we (both those who have and have not encountered infertility) can better support one another. I shared my story to get the conversation going, so now I must #startasking, will you?